Least Tern Sternula antillarum



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Photos from this Account

Breeding adult

Small with narrow, pointed wings. Breeding birds have a black crown and a white forehead. In flight, note black edge on outer flight feathers.

Breeding adult

Smallest tern in North America. Thin yellow bill and yellow legs during the breeding season help separate it from similar species.


Very small tern. Juveniles have a barred or scaly looking back and yellow legs. The crown patch on this bird is small and smudgy brown; others can have a darker black partial crown.


Chicks are tiny balls of fluff that leave the nest after about 2 days.

Breeding adult

Smallest North American tern, with a yellow bill and white forehead. In flight, note pointed wings and black outer edge on the primaries.


Immature birds have a small smudgy black patch behind the eye and a dark bill unlike adults, but they still have yellow legs.


Found along seacoasts, beaches, bays, estuaries, lagoons, lakes, and rivers. Breeds on sandy or gravelly beaches and banks of rivers or lakes.

Recommended Citation

Least Tern (Sternula antillarum), In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online: https://neotropical.birds.cornell.edu/Species-Account/nb/species/leater1